SYDNEY, Australia - When the World No.10 isn't even seeded, you know you have a phenomenal draw. Nine of the Top 10 players in the world have come to Sydney this week for the 40th edition of the Apia International Sydney.
Perhaps the biggest storyline of the week will be the race for No.1 - right now Caroline Wozniacki is No.1 and Petra Kvitova is No.2, but if Kvitova wins the title this week, she will replace Wozniacki at the top spot afterwards.
After a first round bye, Wozniacki will begin her week against Peng Shuai or Dominika Cibulkova (Cibulkova beat her in Sydney last year); Kvitova will begin against either Sabine Lisicki or a yet-to-be-determined qualifier.
Victoria Azarenka, Li Na, Sam Stosur, Vera Zvonareva, Aga Radwanska and Marion Bartoli round out the seeds. Azarenka, Li, Radwanska and Bartoli all face qualifiers in their opening matches, but Stosur and Zvonareva have some very tough tests indeed: Stosur plays No.11-ranked Francesca Schiavone, who beat her in the 2010 French Open final; Zvonareva plays No.19-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion and former No.2.
Li won this title last year, propelling her to her first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open. She is this year's No.4 seed and is looking to rebound after a disappointing second half of 2011, since her famous French Open win.
"I've been training hard and looking forward to playing in Australia again," the 29-year-old Chinese said to the press. "Of course I wish I can do well here, but this draw has such a high level. To have so many good players here, like Kvitova and Stosur, it will be tough. And I've never won a match against Stosur.
"I have good memories from 2011 but it's over. It's 2012 and you have to start at zero. I think this year is going to be even tougher, too, with so many young players coming up, and Serena and Venus coming back from injury."
Stosur had a surprise second round loss as the top seed in Brisbane last week, but is looking to rebound. "I came to Sydney the night I lost in Brisbane. It's nice to be back here again and I've been preparing as best I can for this week. Last week wasn't the ideal start - you never plan to go out second round of a home tournament - but I have to look at the big picture and focus on here.
"I think the cut-off here was No.24, so it's going to be a tough draw here."
Three of the Top 4 teams in the world headline in the doubles draw: Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik are the No.1 seeds, Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond are the No.2 seeds and Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta are the No.3 seeds. Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova round it out at No.4.